Minnesota State Law Library

Law Library Service to Prisoners - 2005 Annual Report

2005 Index

Introduction - Law Library Service to Prisoners (LLSP): The mission of LLSP is to provide law library service to inmates incarcerated in Minnesota. We do this by providing access to legal materials, both at the correctional facilities and the Minnesota State Law Library (MSLL). Circuit-riding prison law librarians, based at MSLL, conduct monthly visits to eight adult correctional facilities to meet with inmates. Questions that cannot be answered on-site using the prison collections of core legal materials are researched at MSLL. Inmates also write or call LLSP for assistance with their legal research. We also provide law library services to Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) inmates housed in other facilities, such as county jails, state hospitals, and other states. In addition, we provide law library service to DOC staff.

History of LLSP: LLSP, funded by an inter-agency agreement between the State Law Library and the Department of Corrections, began as a pilot project in 1984, with one librarian visiting five correctional facilities and a part-time clerk doing photocopying. Today, the staff includes two full-time and one half-time librarians, as well as one part-time clerk. Due to consistent growth in the number of prisoners, each year we provide more materials to more inmates. In 2005, we provided a landmark 30,747 requested items to 1,865 different inmates.

Providing Information and Service to Inmates: LLSP provides access to legal research materials for prisoners in several ways: by interview, kite (an internal DOC request form), letter and/or phone.

During the monthly prison visit, any inmate can request an interview with the librarian at the prison library or, in certain circumstances, at their cell. In the course of the interview, the inmate explains what he or she needs, and the librarian responds by providing pertinent legal research material to the prisoner, either at that time or after research is done at the State Law Library. A small core collection of legal materials, however, is available at each of the prison libraries. Each title in the core collection is reviewed annually, as is the collection as a whole, to assure that inmates have access to essential primary legal information at each prison library. By reviewing the core collection, we also determine if it is still the best and most cost-effective way to provide basic legal materials and information to inmates.

The LLSP librarians also provide access to the materials found at the State Law Library, where most of the research is done for prisoners. The State Law Library is the second largest collection of legal materials in Minnesota; it not only has a large print collection, but also many online resources, such as Westlaw and Lexis. By using these resources, we are able to provide inmates with information on any legal topic. Having our office space and collection provided by the State Law Library is of great savings to the program.

Overview of 2005: The Department of Corrections is striving to make inmate legal research services and materials as consistent and uniform as possible in all the correctional facilities. Throughout 2005, the staff of LLSP worked closely with DOC staff to implement this new goal. Prior to 2005, LLSP staff visited Oak Park Heights and Stillwater Correctional Facilities every two weeks. In 2005, we reduced the frequency of visits to those two prisons to once per month - to be consistent with the visits to the other prisons. We drafted a new condensed core print collection list to be used in conjunction with a new collection of CD-ROM materials that will be available in 2006 in all the major correctional facilities (only four of the eight major prisons had CD-ROM materials in the past). This combination of print and electronic resources will give the inmate access to primary legal materials at the institution. The Head of Outreach Services, Daniel Lunde, visited each prison during 2005 and discussed issues and problems with the institution librarians. On October 14th, LLSP staff also met with the prison librarians at their biannual meeting in Lino Lakes to discuss the proposed changes in services to inmates. LLSP staff worked closely with DOC librarians and education staff to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Staff, Interns, and Volunteers during 2005: Joan O., a LLSP volunteer for more than ten years, provided many hours of quality service, retrieving and copying legal materials for inmates. Five College of St. Catherine's Library School Masters Degree students (Kelly D., Angelina F., Megan J., Theresa S., and Maureen S.), interned with LLSP this year. Each intern processed and researched inmate requests. The library science interns used the skills and concepts learned in the classroom and applied them to actual questions. LLSP was also assisted by STEP-UP intern, Kaleb E., during the summer of 2005. Our interns and volunteers worked 807.5 hours in 2005 (not including the STEP-UP intern), - and their assistance was invaluable. One of the reasons we were able accomplish so much was due to our high-level interns and volunteers. The primary reason for our success, however, is due to the dedication and hard work of the program staff: Stephanie Thorson, Susan Trombley, Deb Kitzmann, and Tim Baland. It was a difficult year, with several extended leaves of absence, but the LLSP staff accomplished all of its goals and mission.

Statistical Highlights for 2005

LLSP compiles many statistics, as shown in the table, graph and pie charts at the end of this annual report. A few observations concerning our 2005 statistics:

Conclusion: Over the course of the past twenty-two years, one of LLSP's primary goals has been to provide the best possible service at the least possible cost. We constantly work to keep the program's expenses to a minimum and maximize the resources that are available for the program. We believe that by educating inmates about the resources available to them and providing access to the legal information they request, the work of LLSP diminishes the number of lawsuits filed by Minnesota prisoners.

STATISTICAL SUMMARY

LLSP  ACTIVITIES

2003

2004

2005

2004-2005

% Change

Requests Processed

24914

29037

30747

        +5.9 %

On-site Meetings with Inmates

  1680

  1598

  1492

         -6.6%

Individuals Assisted

  1504

  1766

  1865

        +5.6%

Requests Processed quantifies the activities involved in providing law library service to prisoners.  On-site Meetings with Inmates is the number of inmate reference interviews conducted in-person.  Individuals Assisted is the total number of people we provide information to whether in-person, by telephone, or through the mail.

For graphs, see page 4.

 

24 Hours at the State Law Library
Administration 2005 Annual Report
Public Services 2005 Annual Report
Technical Services 2005 Annual Report